ghost cookies

Dear Becca and Cale,

Thank you for bringing cute adorable ghosts to the world. I am such a scaredy-cat when it comes to spooky and paranormal things, but both of your picture books have made me look at ghosts in a different way.

To celebrate the Halloween season, I made some ghost cookies based on your illustrations from How to Make Friends with a Ghost and Sir Simon: Super Scarer. My first task was finding the perfect cookie cutter, which turned out to be a tulip shape that I could use upside-down!

Ghost Cookies

Rolled Sugar Cookies
Recipe adapted from Serious Eats

115 grams unsalted butter
100 grams coconut oil
225 grams sugar
5 grams table salt
7 grams vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg
355 grams all-purpose flour

  1. There are a few things I omitted from the original recipes, so make sure you check out the original link in case you want to follow it through and through. I also used a scale to weight everything out in grams for this recipe.
  2. In a stand mixer, combine the butter, coconut oil, sugar, salt, vanilla extra, and baking powder together. It should come together on medium speed until it’s fluffy and light. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.
  3. Add in the egg and continue to mix until combined.
  4. Add the flour and mix on low until well combined. Take the dough out divide it in half. Flatten in into discs and wrap in plastic and refrigerate overnight or for at least two hours.
  5. When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F and move the oven racks to the lower middle positions. Place parchment paper on your baking trays.
  6. Take the dough out so that it warms up to room temperature. Gently knead it so that it’s easier to roll.
  7. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of ¼ inch. Cut with your tulip cookie cutter and slide a spatula underneath to help loosen it and transfer to the baking tray. Repeat until all of the dough has been used. You can knead together the scraps to be rolled out again.
  8. Place the baking trays in the oven and bake for about 12 minutes. The cookies should be slightly puffed, but firm and pale.
  9. Let the cookies cool for another half hour on the baking tray.

Ghost Cookies

I whipped up a batch of royal icing to pipe out the faces. I don’t have a precise recipe for it as I usually do this in a small bowl and adjust until the icing consistency is how I like it. So since it’s based on how it feels, I have never measured out the icing sugar and water ratio.

I filled out a piping bag with the smallest round tip to create their sweet faces. Then I dabbed my finger into the pink food dye to create the ghosts’ blush.

Ghost Cookies

It was my first time making this recipe. I loved that the cookies stayed pale after baking, we don’t want any golden-edged ghosts here. But I found the dough so hard to work with, it would crumble every time I tried to roll it out. Yet, the small batch I did came together. I did like the coconut aroma and it did help keep the cookies soft and chewy.

Regardless of my baking notes, I’m glad they were a hit and everyone seemed to enjoy gobbling these ghosts down.

Your boo,
Syl

*Disclaimer: I work in marketing and publicity for Tundra Books, which publishes both How to Make Friends with a Ghost by Rebecca Green and Sir Simon: Super Scarer by Cale Atkinson.

nectarine hand-pies

Dear Howard,

It has become the year of pies and hand-pies. Sure, you might say they’re turnovers or strudels, but hand-pies are so much cuter. Who knew I would churn out more than 50 of these this year only to be gobbled up by the masses? I think the hand-pie obsession is real.

Thank goodness I had extra pie dough lying around that night and decided to make peach-apple hand-pies on a whim. I think that is still my favourite filling combo, but I’m sure we’ll find another soon. These remind me of the McDonald pies, except these are flakier and not as sweet.

Nectarine Hand-Pies
All-butter pie crust recipe adapted from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book
Makes about 25 hand-pies

1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 teaspoons granulated sugar
½ pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ apple cider vinegar
1 cup cold water

  1. As you know, I like to use my trusty food processor for its speed. Plus, it evenly distributes the butter into small specks among the flour, creating a nice marble effect.
  2. Add the sugar and salt into the food processor. Then cut up the cold butter and scatter them around the bowl. Pour in the flour and then pulse until the mixture is grainy and sandy looking.
  3. In a measuring cup, pour in the apple cider vinegar and cold water.
  4. Turn on the food processor again and through the opening, add 10 tablespoons of the apple cider vinegar and water mixture.
  5. The dough should come together nicely and feel a little (a tiny bit) tacky or sticky. I prefer the dough this way because additional flour gets added during the rolling process.
  6. Divide the dough into two flat discs and wrap with plastic. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 2 hours.

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Hand-Pie Filling
Makes enough for about 25 hand-pies

6 to 7 nectarines, diced into small chunks (1 pound or 3 cups)
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons potato starch
½ teaspoon salt

  1. Mix the nectarines, granulated sugar, and brown sugar together. Let it macerate for half an hour to an hour and pour out the excess juices.
  2. Then mix in the potato starch and salt to help thicken the filling.

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Making hand-pies is a lot like making dumplings. I rolled out the dough and used a 4-inch circle cutter to create all the round wrappers. Then scooped about a tablespoon of filling into the middle. Then with a dab of water around the edges, sealed the fruit filling in.

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Using the tines of a fork, I pressed down along the border to further seal the edges.

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Isn’t it cute? A pie that fits in the palm of my hands! Using a knife, I made three small cuts to let the steam vent when it bakes.

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Brush the top of the hand-pies with an egg wash.

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And sprinkle on the brown Demerara sugar. The more you add, the more crunchy it’ll be!

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Preheat the oven to 400°F and place the baking sheet in the middle of the oven. Bake for half an hour, the hand-pies should be golden brown.

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Let the pies cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes. Eat with your hands.

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This is seriously the best baked good we’ve discovered this year. I can’t wait for summer next year to eat all the peaches and nectarines again!

Sincerely,
Syl

cat cake

Dear Lyndsay,

Happy book birthday and congratulations on your first cookbook! I wish I was in Vancouver celebrating with you at Collage Collage, but I’m happy to be celebrating with you online. Coco Cake Land is just as cute as your cakes! I love how the book looks and all of the pretty cake inspirations inside.

Coco Cake Land

Ever since my colleague, Daniel, told me about your book, I have been waiting to get my hands on it (and I have Claire in publicity to thank for it). I love the cat cake and the bunny cake and the cacti cake and the fox and the lamb … basically all of them. And those pretty party cakes are what I can work towards. Still can’t do a pretty side drip. Help!

Coco Cake Land

I had sent a photo of the cake to my mom who asked why wasn’t I sharing it with her. I got kind of the same response when I texted it to my best friend. Sorry, this was for two kids who had been asking for cake in the past two weekends!

Coco Cake Land

I think my favourite part of making the cake is putting the ears on. And then the eyes and nose. Because it’s already so freaking cute at that stage.

Coco Cake Land

It was such a blast from the past since I hadn’t worked with fondant in so long. It was stickier than I remembered. Or perhaps it was the new brand of fondant I was trying out. They came in small tubs which was perfect for this project.

Coco Cake Land

And I got to do something new! I have never piped on fondant before. I always tried to avoid adding too much moisture as the fondant would get melt-y, but it didn’t! I adore the added touch of frosting fur on the ears.

Coco Cake Land

I still can’t get over how cute this is, it’s probably the cutest cake I’ve ever made. I made your one bowl dark chocolate cake (page 147) and filled it with the peanut butter frosting (page 156) before piping your simple vanilla buttercream (page 149). Oh my gosh. The piping really took a toll on my hands and arms. All that squeezing. I should have picked up a larger multi-opening decorating tip.

Coco Cake Land

I know I said the cake was too cute to eat. But we just had to. The chocolate cake was really decadent and moist. I loved the peanut butter frosting too, the recipe I normally use requires me to buy cream cheese, so I’m glad that I can do without it and just use your recipe now.

Coco Cake Land

Can I say it? This cake was purrfect.

Sincerely,
Syl

shakshouka

Dear Laura,

Oh geez, I thought I had published this letter. How many months has it been now? We’re in the sweltering heat of the long weekend when I made this shakshouka after that winter storm at your place. And now, you’re making it again with homemade bread and fresh herbs from your garden for brunch this weekend. Regardless, thank you for introducing my newbie taste-buds to this delicious dish.

Shakshouka (North African-Style)
Recipe from Serious Eats
Makes enough to serve 4-6.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 large red pepper, thinly sliced
1 small jalapeño, thinly sliced
2 to 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 ½ tablespoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin seed
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed
Salt and pepper
Large handful minced cilantro, parsley, or a mix
4-6 eggs (depends on how many eggs each person wants)
Feta cheese (crumbled) and crusty bread (toasted), for serving

  1. Choose your vessel, we’ve made it in both a cast iron skillet and a straight-side sauté pan. Heat the olive oil until it’s shimmering. Then add the onion, red pepper, and chili and cook until they’re browned and starting to char.
  2. Add the garlic, paprika, cumin, and tomatoes. Reduce the heat and let the dish simmer for about 10 minutes. Seriously, if you can make pasta sauce, you can make this sauce.
  3. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add in half the cilantro or parsley.
  4. Egg time! Using a large spoon and make little wells in the sauce. Break an egg into the well and cover the edges with a little bit of sauce so that it’s partially submerged. Repeat with the rest of the eggs, work around the perimeter of the pan. Simmer until the egg whites are cooked and the yolks are still runny.
  5. Take it off the heat to serve and garnish with the remaining cilantro, parsley, and feta cheese.

Shakshuka

Love how easy and hearty this is!

Sincerely,
Syl

matcha dusted fudge brownies

Dear Sam,

Huzzah! It feels like Easter was many moons ago as I am very late in writing this post. I was like, who could I write this to? and you popped into my mind because you finally gave in and had chocolate just because I made these. To that, I am humbled and I also commend you on going 39 days without chocolate. That’s not an easy task. Even just today, I was poking around my kitchen looking for something chocolate to nibble on. I eventually gave in and opened my second box of Daim cake. And just to be clear, I would have made them again after Easter so you could have some!

These brownies are so addictive, but it was seeing a photo of the glossy and crinkly top that drew me into the recipe in the first place. Stella Parks is a dessert genius. If she’s reading this, I would love to know how to swirl the matcha onto the top (and just the top) of the brownie. Would it still achieve that glossy film?

Glossy Fudge Brownies
Recipe adapted from BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts
Makes enough to fill a 9 x 13 x 2 inch pan

1 cup all-purpose flour
1⅓ cup cocoa powder
3 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (the original recipe calls for dark chocolate bars, chopped)
2¼ cup white suguar
¼ cup brown sugar
1¾ teaspoons salt
6 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extra
(The original recipe also calls for instant espresso powder here, but it’s optional, and I didn’t have any.)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a 9 x 13 x 2 inch baking pan with foil so that the bottom and sides are covered.
  2. In a pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. I dabbed a little of the melted butter with a brush to grease the foil in the pan. Increase the heat to medium and let the butter simmer until the butter is golden yellow and silent (there’s a lot of hissing and popping during the process).
  3. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the chocolate chips.
  4. Sift the flour and cocoa powder together.
  5. Using a stand mixer, whisk the white sugar, brown sugar, salt, eggs, and vanilla extract. Run it on medium-high until the mixture is thick and fluffy (about 8 minutes).
  6. Reduce the stand mixer speed to low and pour in the warm chocolate-butter mixture. Once it’s combined and you don’t see anymore streaks, add in the sifted flour and cocoa powder. Mix on low until the batter comes together. Be careful not to over mix here. Use a spatula to help fold if you think the stand mixer might be too heavy handed.
  7. Pour the batter in the pan and bake for about 25 minutes. The brownies should have a glossy film and still be soft to the touch.
  8. Here’s the hard part, wait. Let it sit and cool. It’ll be too gooey to slice if you don’t wait.
  9. Gently tug and lift the foil out of the pan. Cut the brownie into squares (or triangles). Store in an airtight container with wax paper between each layer. It’ll last for a week in room temperature. I also froze some to be mixed in with ice cream sundaes in the future.

Chocolate Brownies

Stirring the melted butter and chocolate together.

Chocolate Brownies

Sifting the flour and cocoa powder!

Chocolate Brownies

Pour that luxurious batter into the baking pan.

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Finally, it’s cool and ready to be sliced.

Chocolate Brownies

Oh my gosh, look at the center where it’s nice and dark. This is one moist and delicious brownie.

Liza, if you’re reading this, it’s time to look away.

Chocolate Brownies

Dusted some matcha powder on the top of my brownie square.

Chocolate Brownies

Yaasss! So ready to dig in.

Chocolate Brownies

The first bite, get in my belly!

Chocolate Brownies

Time for a second bite.

Sincerely,
Syl